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A new series

We've all encountered them, shuffling across the cultural landscape like desiccated zombies: arguments about climate change that have been bludgeoned with a thousand rebuttals, but keep lurching to life, attacking again and again. Each time they appear, the search begins again for the same rebuttals, the same citations and resources. In the face of this kind of undead onslaught, even Buffy might lose her perk. Coby Beck wants to help. Over the course of 2006, he's written a series of posts called "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic." He wanted to ... ... provide a layman's guide to defending …

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How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

A new series gives you the ammunition No matter how many times they are bludgeoned with informed rebuttals, the same skeptical arguments about climate change keep lurching back to life like zombies. It can get tiresome searching for the same counterarguments over and over again. A new series on Gristmill aims to put all those counterarguments in one place, for easy access. Think of it as a rhetorical ammunition stash. How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic kicks off today -- check it out.

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Cleared up once and for all

The answer depends on the exact question you're asking. Here is my view of the scientific consensus on a range of questions: 1) Did global warming cause Katrina? Or Rita? Or any single storm? As far as I know, there exists not a single peer-reviewed article that connects global warming with the increased ferocity of any single storm. The commonly used dice analogy provides a good explanation of why the case is so hard to make. Assume the weather is determined by rolling a six-sided die, with a six corresponding to a massive hurricane. Now assume that by adding greenhouse …

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The shining promise of ethanol doesn’t add up for farmers

No one can begrudge corn farmers their share of euphoria over the recent ethanol boom. Until very recently, their plight could be summed up by a bit of gallows humor I once heard from a dairy farmer: "I lose money on every gallon, so I try to make up for it on volume." Hopes are rising along with corn prices. That brief sentence sums up the desperation of large-scale farming. When prices drop, the farmer hopes to compensate by producing more. But everyone else has the same idea, so the price just drops further. For most of the last three …

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Offset and Running

U.K. goes offset-crazy, but how much is it helping the planet? Carbon offsets are all the rage in the U.K. these days -- but are they a dangerous distraction from the need to slash greenhouse-gas emissions at the source, or simply a savvy strategy for efficiently addressing a global problem? Forum for the Future, a British sustainability group, had some feisty internal debates over this question when presented with the opportunity to help energy giant BP develop a consumer offset scheme. Peter Madden reports on the lessons learned.

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It’s about risk

No, the lesson is not that Katrina was caused by or made worse by global warming. There is, at present, no evidence that Katrina was meteorological payback for our ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases. Rather, the lesson of Katrina is about risk. The possibility of a large hurricane wreaking havoc on the Louisiana coast has been known for years. Everything from infrastructure damage to long-term flooding of New Orleans to the enormous refugee problem was foreseen in excruciatingly accurate detail. We also knew the things we could do to reduce the impact of a killer hurricane. We could shore up …

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Peter Madden ponders the upsides and downsides of CO2 offsetting

This is the second installment of a monthly column on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe, from Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, Britain's leading sustainable development charity. Read the first column here. We have gone offset-crazy in the U.K. Open any newspaper or magazine at the moment and you'll see full-page advertisements from oil giant BP offering the chance to "neutralize the impact of your car's CO2 emissions." Buy a new Range Rover, book a holiday with First Choice, or pay for a flight with British Airways and you are given the chance to offset. Even …

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Pretty in Sink

Carbon trading market could help save rainforests Rainforests are worth far more intact, acting as carbon sinks, than if they're cleared for farmland or pasture, the World Bank said yesterday, and therefore countries should be compensated for keeping trees standing. Enter: the global carbon market, where polluters must pay to offset excessive carbon dioxide emissions. The World Bank's Kenneth Chomitz explains that a hypothetical deforested pasture may be worth $300, while the carbon offset provided by a rainforest could be worth $7,500. (Maintaining habitat for endangered wildlife: priceless.) "Compensation for avoiding deforestation could help developing countries to improve forest governance …

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Here So Suin’?

Courts see "boomlet" of climate-change-related lawsuits Climate-change-related lawsuits are the new black. At least 16 cases are pending in federal and state courts in which plaintiffs seek to hold automakers, oil companies, and electric utilities liable for environmental devastation wrought by global warming. "To me, Katrina was a clear result of irresponsible behavior by the carbon-emissions corporate economy," says F. Gerald Maples, an attorney whose Mississippi home was devastated by the hurricane. He has filed a class-action suit against dozens of entities, from Chevron to Exxon to American Electric Power. Says John Echeverria of Georgetown University's Environmental Law & Policy …

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Humanity faces the fight of a lifetime against heavyweight climate change

Suppose you'd been invited to go into the ring with Muhammad Ali at his prime, for a 15-round bout. You'd almost certainly have said, "No thanks." Climate change: down for the count. Photo: iStockphoto But what if you had no choice? Say someone had a gun to your head, and you'd be killed if you didn't comply? What would you do? One option would be to cower in the ring, letting Ali pound you senseless. But another approach might be to go for it: bob and weave, dance and waggle -- give it your best shot, maybe even have a …

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